Interview with C. T. Vivian
QUESTION 53
INTERVIEWER:

O.K., NO NOT A CUT, I WANT TO GO RIGHT NOW, JUMP AHEAD A LITTLE BIT TO THE EASTER BOYCOTT. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF, OF THE BOYCOTT AS A WHOLE? WAS IT JUST TO DESEGREGATE THOSE SIX STORES OR WAS IT JUST TO CLEAR SEGREGATION OUT OF ALL DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE OR—TALK ABOUT THE EASTER BOYCOTT.

C. T. Vivian:

We saw the Easter boycott as a chance to get over many ideas of nonviolence and to be most effective for the entire city and help create a reconciliation of all the forces in the city.** Uh, number one, uh, we never really talked about boycott. With us it was an economic withdrawal, theologically understood, that those resources that God gave you could not be used to perpetuate an evil. So to put them in the hands of merchants who were perpetuating the evil of racism, would be against God, a misuse of that which was given, number one. Number two, it gave everyone a chance in that city, black and white, to show where they were in regard to our economic withdrawal, and to our desire to be a full part of the city. Uh, it allowed, it stopped uh, many people from buying. Easter was a most important time for buying. All blacks had to have a full brand new outfit at Easter no matter how poor you were, all right? You may start three months ahead of time paying for that Easter outfit and you may be paying for it for three months later.** Now it sounds like a lot of money, but not then, right, because uh, the, the difference in white and black income was so great and the little money you had for extras was so great that you could be paying for six months. Uh, just like at Christmas again, it would be the same thing. Now Easter was a time, cause Easter was the time of the cross, Easter was the time of sacrifice, so we interpreted it that way, right? Easter was a time then that people found they did not need new suits, new clothes, new shoes, new anything. There was plenty of things. This one woman said, "I looked in my closet and found I had fourteen pair of shoes, and I said, ‘I am so glad for the movement ‘cause I don't need to buy anything." All right? And I remember a number of men saying that for the first time they were solvent after Easter. Uh, uh, that uh, uh, people began to understand and we began to put things in economic terms and Vivian Henderson, who was an economist at Fisk University at the time, would give weekly reports on what was happening downtown. Uh, it was destroying the economy downtown. What they'd counted on, they could no longer count on. Money they had spent for Easter, they could no longer count on getting back. Uh, uh, many of the places that overcharged blacks began to realize it wasn't going to work anymore. Everybody then in that city began to realize that there needed to be a reconciliation—the merchants because of the money lost, people in that city because it was being interpreted in terms of the cross and it was a religious city, with all those, public [?] houses and churches and et cetera. Uh, uh, so that, so that everyone was affected from their base of values, and that made the difference, you see. As, and as they were affected there, they began to interpret the movement not simply as uh, as, as a group of blacks who were dissatisfied, right? But in terms of the evil in the society, and, and how badly fractured we were as a city, and what could happen then in terms of a vision of the possibility of a true Democratic city that could fulfill their understandings of the Athens of the South that was worthy of a Parthenon.